New legal framework enables an update of the environmental protection requirements
The European Parliament and the Council of the European Union adopted on March 9th 2011 a new Regulation laying down harmonised conditions for the marketing of construction products. The regulation retains many of the core elements of its legal predecessor the Construction Products Directive. New emphases are a common technical language to support the definition of harmonised conditions for the marketing of construction products and clear terms for access to CE marking.
The EU Construction Products Regulation takes up some suggestions of the EPA Network. In its discussion paper of 2007, the EPA Network presented recommendations on how to integrate environmental protection appropriately into the revision of the CPD. Especially the revision of the basic requirement ”hygiene, health and environment” for buildings and other construction works and the addition of a new basic requirement ”sustainable use of natural resources” are derived from the suggestions in the ”Zagreb Statement” of the EPA Network. Also other EPA Network proposals, like better informing users of construction products on dangerous substances in the CE marking of the product, were taken up by the European Parliament and the Council and laid down in the regulation.
UBA welcomes European minimum levels of protection
The so called delegated acts are foreseen as a new possibility for the European Commission to make additions to the Construction Products Regulation. This new procedure from the Lisbon Treaty should make it easier to implement the Regulation. The Commission can for instance define the essential characteristics of a construction product that a manufacturer always has to declare in his declaration of performance. The declaration of performance is a prerequisite for CE marking. The Commission may also lay down threshold levels or performance classes for essential characteristics on a high level of protection in delegated acts. In this way the credibility of CE marking as an instrument of safeguarding the compliance with legal minimum standards will be enhanced. For declaration of emissionsi nto indoor air almost all involved parties are keen to get performance classes derived from harmonized reference values. The EU-LCI working group has already delivered a very good basis for this.
If the European Commission does not lay down the essential characteristics, the declaration of performance would be drawn up according to a catalogue of essential characteristics in the area where the product is intended to be placed on the market. This option does not integrate health and environmental protection adequately as the member states provisions do not always take health and environmental aspects into account. Therefore it is important that the Commission really does use the new competences delegated to it. Otherwise it will not be possible to achieve a harmonised declaration of the health and environmental characteristics of construction products in the single market.
Furthermore the Regulation includes a significant improvement for the availability of information on the use of hazardous substances in the context of CE marking. The German Federal Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt – UBA) considers it crucial to implement information obligations from EU environmental legislation in the declaration of performance, especially where harmonised European requirements already exist. Article 6(5) now requires information on included substances of very high concern under the REACH regulation or a safety data sheet always to be included into the declaration of performance, Moreover article 67 contains the obligation to check by 25 April 2014 whether the substance declaration should be extended. The UBA advocates priority substances in the field of water policy and biocides to be added to the substance declaration in this examination.